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Becoming an expert in the media: 8 tips for physicians

Social media gurus and influencers are posing a threat to the specialty of dermatology, and physicians need to learn to navigate the new media landscape to reclaim their expert titles, according to Dr. Julia Carroll, speaking at the first Women in Dermatology Leadership Meeting in Toronto this past April.

Dr. Carroll is a director and dermatologist at Compass Dermatology in Toronto and is considered well-versed in media—a media maven—who often appears as a guest expert on shows like ET Canada and The Marilyn Dennis Show. A media maven is someone who discusses interesting and trending content on a social media platform or large online network.

Dr. Julia Carroll speaking at the Women in Dermatology Conference Photo by Bianca Quijano

Why become a media maven?

“I think the number one thing is that we are experts . . . we are feeling, as dermatologists, a little bit under attack right now. I think it’s really important for us to own this space and be the experts when it comes to skin, hair, nails, aesthetic dermatology, and medical dermatology,” said Dr. Carroll.

She also discussed the significance of how becoming a media maven can affect patients. When patients see their dermatologist on television it can validate their choice of doctor. It can also help attract patients to an individual’s practice. The physical media content also helps build a dermatologist’s public relation profile and increases exposure to the general public, explained Dr. Carroll.

How to become a media maven:

1. Generate ideas

Step one is to generate an idea, something that will interest the media and the public. Dr. Carroll recommended unique patient stories, common questions asked by patients, framing stories around themes, new technology or products, or a technique or procedure a physician has pioneered.

2. The pitch

Step two involves pitching the story or idea to an outlet. Dr. Carroll recommended starting small, “local or neighbourhood papers are always looking for content. Local television . . . may not be widely viewed but it is a great place to get started,” she said.

Dr. Carroll also discussed writing a blog or connecting with a blogger as another method to pitch an idea and communicate a topic to the public.

3. Preparing for the interview

Dr. Carroll explained that she will frequently ask reporters what types of questions will be asked during the interview so that she can prepare.

“Whatever the question is, think three layers deeper. You never know where the conversation is going to go, so do not just prepare [for] those questions, prepare the background story around it, and that is going to add some depth to the interview,” she said.

Knowing who the interviewer is will be important, noted Dr. Carroll. She explained the interviewer may have a certain bias to be aware of, which could affect the interview.

4. The location of the interview

If the interview is over the phone, Dr. Carroll recommended using a land line as opposed to a cell phone since cell phones can be unreliable. She also explained that a radio interview can be a very different experience than an office interview. She explained wearing headphones and the interviewer not making eye contact is typical for those types of interviews. If the interview will be on live television Dr. Carroll suggested being aware of the “hot camera,” i.e., the moment the interview has stopped and the network is about to go to commercial but cameras are still rolling.

5. What to say

“[The] rule of three is what I live for . . . you want [a] main message, then you are going to follow it with a supporting message. It might be a similar message or some statistics to back up your main message. [Lastly], a call to action,” said Dr. Carroll.

“Be very careful of jargon because [the audience] is not going to understand acronyms. Any time you can actually use a word, like sun protection factor, it is much more powerful than saying SPF. I also find stories and anecdotes are quite helpful to get around some of the jargon when you are doing comparisons,” she said.

Dr. Carroll also recommended having bridging statements prepared to avoid answering questions one does not want to answer or if there is a need to correct something. “We say: ‘Well, we find the more important issue is X’; or ‘Well, I think it would be more accurate to say Y’; or ‘Here is the real problem,” she said.

Dr. Carroll also explained that there is no such thing as “off the record,” therefore it is best not to depend on it and not to disclose opinions or information that one would not like to be made public.

6. Review and measure

Dr. Carroll noted that reviewing an interview when possible is important for accuracy and efficacy. Reposting the article, video, or audio on social media is a great way to expand the feature’s impact and audience.

Measuring the impact is the second last step, she noted. “You can measure this personally. How did you feel about it? Did calls come into the office? Did it generate other media leads? You have to always be thinking of that to make sure that it is worth it for you to be doing this,” said Dr. Carroll.

7. Archive it

She explained a great way to build a CV is to archive all the video, radio clips, and articles one appears in, to keep track of them.

8. Pearls for being interviewed on television

In terms of wardrobe, Dr. Carroll recommended avoiding patterns and avoiding black and white because the colours can vibrate on television. Bringing a spare outfit is also a smart idea in the event of unexpected problems. When wearing pants, men in particular should ensure they wear tall socks to avoid showing bare ankles. Dr. Carroll recommended wearing simple jewellery and saying yes to studio makeup, when offered, as it will have a positive impact on one's appearance through the television screen.

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